Regional Caribbean: could Bajan cuisine be the next big thing?

With regional Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines all the rage, the lesser known cuisine of Barbados may find a place in the UK eating out arena

13 March 2020

Regional and lesser known food is very much gaining traction at the moment. The likes of Sri Lankan and regional Middle Eastern have captured the imagination of the curious UK diner in recent months, with the rise of fermented flavours and plant-based experimentation providing even more range for development teams across the country.   

When considering new dishes and products, taste and texture are perhaps closer than ever before in terms of importance, with health and wellness, sustainability, and focus on fresh produce additional first-line fundamentals of the developmental drawing board.

Last month, fuelled by the potential of new food frontiers and its inherent fresh flavoured appeal, Food Spark dived into Maldivian cuisine to see if it should be considered an up-and-coming trend for the UK food scene. Food Spark was buoyed by David Jones, one half of food development experts Bingham & Jones, who recently returned from the tropical country with more than a few stories to tell.

And this month, we discovered that Sophie Michell, food and drink director at Byron, is currently in Barbados helping a friend set up a locally sourced, sustainably focused restaurant in the Caribbean country.

With neighbouring Venezuela having enjoyed its time in the spotlight recently in the UK, could Bajan cuisine (and a wider range of Caribbean food beyond the mainstream Jamaican) be another to take advantage of hyper-regional trends in the UK this year?

Pickled pudding and mac and cheese pie?

Bajan pudding and souse

Barbadian cuisine, also known as Bajan, has African, Portuguese, Indian and British influences, with a little Creole thrown in too. Marinated and grilled meat and fish are common staples, as are hot sauces, curries and stews.

And, as Byron’s Sophie Michell tells Food Spark, there are plenty more exotic examples of traditional Bajan for chefs to get their teeth into.

“There is loads of gorgeous food here in Barbados, all fresh and punchy flavours,” says Michell. “I love the lamb curies with allspice and cinnamon, for example, and I’ve recent had a chicken roti – they do fantastic roti.

“They also have the more exotic things like pudding and souse, which is like a black pudding with pork and pickle. And then there’s mac and cheese pie which is baked with chillies.  

“I’m also obsessed with Bajan hot sauce – it’s the best hot sauce in the Caribbean.”

Michell also believes that wider Caribbean cuisine is one to watch in 2020.

“I think Caribbean food is having a real moment,” says Michell. “There have been a couple of TV shows on recently focusing on Caribbean and I think the fresh, light, and spicy flavours and textures that they have over here makes it a cuisine that’s quite up and coming.”

Sparkie says…

Cuisine from that area of the world seems to be appearing more and more from my experience but it is usually when there is a viable community within that location to support it. It seems to be living well within its own niche without looking to attract more customers.

I think it may need some minor adaptation to become mainstream - things like toning down the level of heat involved to allow some of the unique flavours to be the forefront but ultimately this is not a difficult task at all.

There are major parts of this cuisine that we are already becoming more and more familiar with like the plantains, cassava and some of the different breads. The curries are also becoming more well-known over time I think through popularisations on TV and other media - especially curried goat and mutton.

There are definitely opportunities for products from this region to be very popular if they are supported.

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